Demarco Moore, Sports Writer
MANCHESTER, Tenn. — The Coffee County Central High School football team’s regular season kicks off two weeks from Friday, and the time has begun to reflect on yet another senior class.
The class of 2018 will be the first four-year group of seniors under head coach Ryan Sulkowski, who was hired in December of 2013.
“It’s satisfying,” said Sulkowski before the Red Raiders hit the field for a special teams practice this past Friday.
“Anytime you can go from taking a kid that comes to you entering their freshman year, and then you get to watch those kids play their senior season and graduate.”
This graduating class has given Sulkowski and his staff an opportunity to mesh and learn over the past three-and-half seasons, leading up to a 2017 season that will essentially serve as their senior year.
“It’s no different than working on a relationship, a marriage, a girlfriend, a boyfriend or whatever it may be,” he added. “You learn as you go, and the kids have taken the personality of this coaching staff, which is when it’s time to go to work, we go to work… we like to have a good time, and the kids have taken that personality. You enjoy sitting around and just talking to them.”
Stay healthy and compete
The real work begins on Aug. 18, when the Red Raiders travel to Winchester to face Franklin County (7 p.m).
And according to one senior, competing week-to-week is possible so long as the team can conquer a problem it faced one too many times last season – staying healthy.
“The last two seasons I’ve been hurt and basically missed a whole year,” said inside linebacker Cameron West. “If we all stay healthy, we can be pretty special this year, especially on defense.
That’s just a main goal, be healthy and just put up stats and win ball games.”
University of Tennessee commit Alontae Taylor, with the move to wide receiver, is challenging the defense to help prepare it for a tough Region 3-6A, where the Red Raiders will see dynamic offenses almost weekly.
“I get to play against a four-star receiver every day,” said defensive back Keishaun Creel, another senior who appreciates the friendly competition that he says should ultimately translate to game day.
“That’s who I’m guarding every day, so going into games I already know what’s coming… [Alontae] pushes us like nobody else. It’s hard to guard him and stuff, but just coming out here every day and going hard against him and Zach [Vaughn] and Andrew [Mahaffey] and all them, it’s just pushing [the secondary] to a whole other level that I don’t think we’ve ever been on.”
It’ll be up to quarterback Colton Prater and the offense to produce points for the team. Prater is now the full-time starter at quarterback for the first time during his four years at CCHS, but the senior has confidence and high hopes thanks to coaching and the ability to lean on his team.
“It’s been a lot of responsibilities that the coaches have put on my shoulders,” he explained. “I’m very grateful that they have, and I hope that I can achieve what they want me to achieve. My goal is, this season, to be the best in the state at my position. With the coaches and the players that I’ve been surrounded by, I believe that I’ll be able to achieve that.”
Coffee County Central will scrimmage Christian Heritage School from Dalton, Ga. on Friday, Aug. 11 at Carden-Jarrell Field. The scrimmage will begin at 6 p.m.
Reach Demarco Moore at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter @iam__demo